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Five Rafale jets take off from France to India

The five jets took off from Merignac airbase at Bordeaux in France

The five jets took off from Merignac airbase at Bordeaux in France   | Photo Credit: Twitter/@Indian_Embassy

Five Rafale fighter jets took off from France on Monday morning for induction into No. 17 ‘Golden Arrows’ squadron of the Indian Air Force (IAF) at the Ambala airbase upon arrival on July 29.

The immediate focus post arrival is on operationalisation of the aircraft at the earliest which has gained urgency with the ongoing tensions with China on the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in Eastern Ladakh.

All five Rafales have landed safely in Al Dhafra airbase in United Arab Emirates (UAE) after a sortie in excess of seven hours,” the IAF said on Monday evening. The jets were accompanied by mid-air refuelling aircraft of the French Air Force on the first leg of the visit from Merignac airbase at Bordeaux in France to the UAE.

After a night halt in the UAE, the jets will take off on Tuesday to their home base in Ambala, covering a total distance of close to 7,000 km between India and France.

“These five include three single-seater and two twin-seater aircraft. The aircraft are likely to arrive at Air Force Station, Ambala, on July 29 subject to weather,” the IAF said in a statement.

The Air Force had stated that the final induction ceremony would take place in the second half of August.

“This is going to add a great deal of strength to our air power and defence preparedness. But it is also a powerful symbol of the strategic partnership between India and France,” said India’s Ambassador to France Jawed Ashraf before the jets took off.

“Our pilots, who I just spoke to, are very excited. They are very proud to be flying the machines to India. It is going to be a long flight. It is a remarkable symbol of their professionalism, endurance and the skills that they have acquired during their training that they be able to do this with mid-air refuelling and just a single stop en route to India which is actually quite a long distance,” he stated.

Ambassador Jawed Ashraf visited the Rafale Assembly line, training facilities and interacted with officials

Ambassador Jawed Ashraf visited the Rafale Assembly line, training facilities and interacted with officials   | Photo Credit: Twitter/@Indian_Embassy

The Indian Embassy in Paris said in a statement, “Delivery of 10 aircraft has been completed as per schedule. Five will stay back in France for training mission. Further batches of IAF personnel will continue the training over the next nine months”. Delivery of all 36 aircraft would be completed as per schedule by end 2021.

In October 2019, on a visit to France for the 2nd India-France ministerial-level annual defence dialogue, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh took formal delivery of the first Rafale jet built for India, and IAF pilots have since been undergoing training on the jets there. During the defence dialogue, the French side agreed to consider the Indian request for 8-10 Meteor missiles to be given to India by 2020 with the first four aircraft.

The introduction of Meteor Beyond Visual Range air-to-air missile, widely recognised as a game changer in air combat with a range of over 150 km, the SCALP long-range stand-off attack air-to-ground missile and the MICA multi-mission air-to-air missiles into the IAF’s inventory will give the force an edge in the neighbourhood.

In addition to these, with the ongoing border tensions, the IAF has decided to procure HAMMER (Highly Agile Modular Munition Extended Range) medium-range air-to-ground missiles for the Rafales. “The IAF is looking at these weapons as they are already integrated [on Rafale]. While SCALP has much larger range for strategic level targets, the HAMMER is below 100 km,” a defence source said.

Procurement under emergency powers

These procurement are being done under the emergency powers given by the Defence Ministry to the armed forces recently for off-the-shelf purchase of weapon systems up to ₹300 crore.

IAF aircrew and ground crew have undergone comprehensive training on the aircraft, including its highly advanced weapons systems, and are fully operational now, the Air Force had stated.

The five jets are part of the 36 Rafale multi-role fighter jets contracted from France in fly-away condition with 13 India Specific Enhancements (ISE) under a €7.87 billion Inter-Governmental Agreement signed in September 2016. However as reported by The Hindu earlier, the Indian standard Rafale with all ISE is operationally expected to be ready latest by second half of 2021.

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Printable version | Aug 12, 2020 2:29:14 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/five-rafale-jets-take-off-from-france-to-india/article32201573.ece

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